My Christmas Gift To Mom, Or, My Life As A Ray Stevens Song


My Christmas gift to mom is paying off her trailer.

That’s not a joke: my life has become a novelty song played on country radio stations. (Not the first time that’s happened.)

She hasn’t always lived in a trailer. My brothers and I grew up in conventional homes in what would normally be called suburbia, except our town had no “urbia”. The houses got nicer over time: we went from linoleum and wall-to-wall carpet to hardwood floors and area rugs.

But sometime around my junior high years, mom lost her delicate balance of crazy/sane. Shortly after I went off to college, she divorced dad, sold the house, took her money, and moved to Jackson — in retrospect, to be near me.

I didn’t process that at the time. I remember thinking, “Oh, she just wants a change”, but “change” would’ve been moving down the street or across town. Moving 90 miles away, into the same apartment building as yours truly, seems, well, like she might’ve been following me.

I left Jackson as soon as I graduated from college, and I eventually lost track of mom, so I can’t say exactly when the money ran out. But I know that for the past decade, she’s been eking out a living with the last of her savings, a little Social Security, and whatever I can send her. (She’s never really worked, and she’s not about to start now.) I don’t know if any of my other brothers are supporting her, too, but I have my doubts.

About six years ago, around the time mom divorced her third husband, she began living in a trailer — a camper, really. She installed herself at a state park near where we grew up, but the park doesn’t allow guests to stay at one site for more than a few weeks, so she has drive to a new location every month or two. I guess that makes her a nomad.

When I spoke to mom at Christmas — only by phone, not face-to-face — she told me she’d bought a new trailer a couple of years back, a bigger one. She says it’s very comfortable, and she waxes poetic about the mobility it affords her, but I know mom. She’d rather have the permanence of a real house — ideally one with a white picket fence, gingerbread trim, and area rugs, like the last one we shared.

I know that mom regrets some of the decisions she’s made, and if she could do it over again, I’m sure she’d do things differently, but she puts on a brave face. Like most good country people I know, she still has her pride.

And by the way, I’m obviously talking about my adoptive mother. My birth mother is en route to Oxford, England, to oversee one of the residences there and to do some research in the library. They’re a study in contrasts, but I love them both.

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